#mootustx10 Dr. Clark’s “Failure of Constructivism” Keynote recap


The social constructionist pedagogy approach to learning is one of the underpinnings of the design of Moodle from it’s inception, according to Moodle.org (http://docs.moodle.org/en/Philosophy).  Interestingly, the Moot keynote’s title was on the myth of success surrounding constructivism.  The keynote more focused on learning and how, when specifically altered/focused could lead to much higher outcomes.  Here are a few of Dr. Richard Clark’s notes on why:

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  • 50% of students are wrong when asked to reflect on how much they learned
  • 30% of students like the instruction from which they learn the least
  • adjusting instruction for different learning styles does not increase learning (accommodation = fail)

Dr. Clark asserts that online learning is just as effective as classroom learning (contrary to popular belief), though if not done well it will lead to poor outcomes.  Furthermore, multimedia-based presentations and engagement can decrease student attentiveness and investment in learning.  The keynote went on to focus on the re-thinking of multi-tasking and mental capacity (and their limits which are less than previously estimated).

Tips for increasing effective online instruction:

  1. eliminate all visuals and sound
  2. continually highlight the most effective information
  3. redundancy (call and answer/read and discuss approach)
  4. text next to graphics
  5. let learners choose the pacing
  6. give learners clues about what they’re learning
  7. graphics and narration > text and animation
  8. narration and pictures not narration alone
  9. use a conversational style
  10. human voice is always better than mechanical narration
  11. ask learners to explain why (teaching content codifies understanding)

An additional theme of the keynote focused on giving control to students in learning processes.  Without value, he says, students will fail to persist or even start a learning endeavor.  Additionally, a student’s sense of confidence (and over confidence) can have a dramatic effect on their ability to learn.  Finally, a student’s emotional well-being has a strong correlation to their motivation and perceived ability to learn and succeed.  These three pieces together have a cumulative effect on providing students a sense of control over their education.

In conclusion Dr. Clark spoke of research that was using data to inform changes to practice.  His example was nurses providing infant care who were identified for having low infant mortality rates.  By examining the practices of the “experts” the research team discovered skills and practices that were not listed in any text book or taught in any courses.  Collecting, collating and disseminating that information has lead to fewer “islands of success” and is growing them into continents, if you will.  This process is an important aspect of educational innovation.

Perhaps the best line of the keynote was “Learning is a product of effort”.  Effort on both ends (teacher and student) only will provide effective outcomes.

Resources and researchers Dr. Clark talked about:

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